Originally published May 13, 2008. Updated May 14.
As the human death toll mounts from the massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, here's a rare bit of good news: 60 giant pandas, one of the world's most endangered species, have survived.
The good news comes from the Chengdu research center, one of two national protected areas for pandas near the epicenter of the quake. There's no word yet from the other, Reuters reports.
Update: All 144 pandas raised in three panda research bases in the quake zone, in Chengdu, Wolong and Xi'an, survived the earthquake, according to Chinese state-run media.
Found only in China, the giant panda is the subject of one of the world's most extensive and cooperative rehabilitation efforts. Zoos all over the world are in the business of trying to breed pandas in captivity, for re-release in the wild. With only 1,600 living in the wild, the survival of these 144 bears amounts to saving 9% of the population, a significant amount.
Meanwhile, the human death toll reveals no good news. Tens of thousands of people remain buried in rubble, according to the New York Times, and already about 12,000 are known to have died. Only two in 10 buildings remain standing in many towns.
Update: The death toll now is up to 15,000, and is still expected to climb, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Stymied by decimated roads, rescue workers have yet to reach some of the more remote and mountainous areas most affected by the earthquake, and a steady rain punctuated by more than 300 aftershocks is complicating the effort.
Meanwhile, the world's relief organizations are stretched somewhat thin, with the struggle to help Myanmar in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Nargis and the volcanic eruption in South America. In the United States, wildfires in Florida and tornadoes across the South would be natural disasters worthy of round-the-clock coverage if not for the severity of calamities around the world.
...Which is why it's good to focus for a moment on the survival of a few pandas in the Chinese wilderness.
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